Let There be Light—and Crunch Time!

A periodic column
by Steve Duffy ‘77

November 18, 2011 – It’s been twenty years since the great Antioch College “Library Sit-in” of the fall of 1991. Students then wanted the library to be open until 2:00 a.m. during the perceived “crunch” weeks of the term. Twenty years ago, lest we forget, personal computers were just starting to appear in peoples’ lives, and the Olive Kettering Library had the campus’ first community computer lab. Additionally, the lab had nearby reference tools. This meant late-night access was an absolute must during crunch-time.

The community decided (after some rather interesting and intense Community Meetings) that the library needed to stay open to the wee hours of the morning for that particular term, and we actually made the O.K. Library into quite the fun academic space. The library's student desk team even made intermittent “C-shop” relays for cheeseburgers, fried things, and other foods that provided comfort for the stresses of diligent database research, frenetic footnoting, and paper-writing procrastination. The following term, a second computer lab was put into what is now the Coretta Scott King Center (formerly known as the Gathering Space), and that was the solution for the next “crunch time.”   

A generation or so later, almost everyone has a laptop, smart phone, Kindle, or iPad. One can check one’s favorite databases and other research from the comfort of one’s dorm room, and eventually, even co-op (if one has access to the internet). Of course, really one ought to adopt a librarian to know what powerful and refereed tools are there for use. The library, though, is still a fun academic watering hole and welcoming touchstone.

The library and campus continue attracting streams of visitors. Last week, Janet Hulm ’94, former serials librarian, and now librarian at Ohio University, came through with her whole family to see the state of the old home-base. She first worked here also around the time of the great “library sit-in” as a student worker. She now has a grown daughter and a two-year-old. Janet looks exactly as she did years ago, and yet has a daughter who looks like a slightly taller sister.

We also had a visit from Claire Dannenbaum ’86, who had come to spend time with Karen Shirley ’61, art faculty emerita. Claire was mighty glad to be here and confessed that, although she was an art student twenty-five years ago, she is now a librarian. Her husband is also a librarian! Michael Casselli ’87 was also in the library as Claire came through. 

Local Dayton alumni chapter leader Mike Kent ’89 popped by one evening and instantly reconnected with former faculty Bill Houston and Peter Townsend, who were reading and doing research. Bill had our November/December 2011 copy of the journal Against the Current and immediately noticed an article by Alan Wald ’70. The article was about Students for a Democratic Society: “Cleveland & ERAP in the in the mid-‘60s.” Antiochians simply pop up in print as well as in person!

The library also finally has its new director, Jim Kapoun, who has an academic twinkle in his eye and visions for the future. Speaking of future visions, the November Volunteer Work Project Week has certainly brightened our day here by overseeing the installation of hundreds of energy-saving fluorescent bulbs. A wonderful spirit of teamwork with some light-spirited humor is in everything they do. 

Jon Baker ’70 is one of the volunteers, and it is so great to see him again. A couple of years ago, both of us stopped for an awestruck moment during the June reunion work project. That June, we saw the horseshoe covered by seventy volunteers and tree experts all working at once. The magnitude of the love given to the oft-neglected landscape gave us goosebumps—there were folks from the base of bushes to the tops of the towering sycamores in the horseshoe. That moment, Jon and I  knew that things were going to get brighter.

Meanwhile, students are hard at work.  It may already be their first “crunch time.” On a chapter leaders' conference call this week, the guest speaker was Geneva Gano, assistant professor of literature. She said that Antioch College students are simply amazing. She has previously taught at Stanford, UCLA, and Indiana University, and said our first-year students think and write just as well as students at those august institutions. She has just received the first papers for her Block B course, Literature and Science: Nature Writing and the Scientific Method.

But when are we going to see you? Perhaps you might keep Reunion and its work project in mind as a summer sojourn. Can’t wait to see us? The next volunteer work week is in January. We’ll help each other usher in the new year!

Steve Duffy ‘77 is a library circulation specialist and special assistant to alumni relations at Antioch College.